An air show turned to tragedy yesterday when an experienced aerobatics pilot died after the light aircraft he was flying crashed during practice at Old Buckenham Airfield.
Tributes have been paid to Wildcat Aerobatics display team member David Jenkins, aged 61, and from Stanton, who was piloting an Edge 360 aircraft during aerobatic practice when it crashed to the ground at about 2.40pm.
The area was partly cordoned off overnight while emergency services, including the air ambulance, attended the scene, and police confirm they have informed the pilot’s next of kin.
A statement from the Wildcat Aerobatics team, which is also based at the airfield, said: “It is with great sadness that Wildcat Aerobatics confirm the death of David Jenkins - “Wildcat 3”.
“David began competition aerobatic flying in 2004 and went on to become one of the leading aerobatic pilots in the UK. He gained his display authorisation in 2006.
“A regular at UK aerobatics competitions, he was the British Aerobatics Advanced Champion in 2012 and 2013.
“He also represented Great Britain as a member of the British team at both European and World Aerobatic Championships. In 2012 the team achieved 4th place, just behind the USA, France and Russia.
“David joined Wildcat Aerobatics in 2013, to bring a new dynamic to our existing two ship display by flying his Edge alongside our two Pitts Specials. We were honoured to fly alongside him.
“David was highly respected on the ground and in the air and will be greatly missed. His family and friends are very much in our thoughts.”
People at the airfield also described Mr Jenkins as a “true professional” and as one of the best pilots they knew.
The crash happened during a press launch which was being held for the annual Old Buckenham Airshow.
Sue Cottee, 64, who lives nearby, said she heard emergency services rushing to the scene.
“I’ve seen ambulances and fire engines and police cars driving by very quickly with their sirens on. I assumed it was a crash on the main road,” she said.
“I knew something big had happened but I’m so shocked to hear a pilot died. It’s really sad.
“I go down to the air show every year with my family. They fly the planes overhead every day and I see them practising when I take my dog out.”
In a statement released yesterday, Old Buckenham Airshow said it had “lost a great friend” and aviation had lost “one of its great champions.”
“Everyone at Old Buckenham extends their heartfelt condolences to David’s family,” the statement read.
“We have been very moved by the countless messages of condolence and support from the aviation world and public at large.
“Please rest assured that they will be passed on to David’s family.
“At the moment this tragedy is the subject of an AAIB investigation. We would like to extend our thanks to the AAIB team for their thoughtful assistance at all times.
“For now, all we can do is ask you all to keep David and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
The Edge 360 aircraft, which Mr Jenkins kept at Knettishall Airfield, is designed specifically for aerobatic flying, and has featured in the Red Bull Air Race because of its manoeuvrability.
* To offer your memories or tributes to Mr Jenkins, please contact the Diss Express by calling 01379 658010 or send an email to email@example.com